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Heritage - 53: London & North Eastern Railway, Twenty-Four Years From Inception to Nationalisation

The Company, Its Remit And Its Leading Lights

'The London & Nearly Everywhere Railway', the LNER's tentacles stretched into rival territory. Its aim primarily was to further the interests of the Board, secondarily to serve industry and commerce as well as a third of mainland Britain's commuters

'The London & Nearly Everywhere Railway', the LNER's tentacles stretched into rival territory. Its aim primarily was to further the interests of the Board, secondarily to serve industry and commerce as well as a third of mainland Britain's commuters

Tom Purvis was a renowned poster designer commissioned by the LNER advertising department to promote the Company. In this poster he drew a parallel with the classic 'Bath of Psyche'. The  seaside led the holiday market at all levels of society

Tom Purvis was a renowned poster designer commissioned by the LNER advertising department to promote the Company. In this poster he drew a parallel with the classic 'Bath of Psyche'. The seaside led the holiday market at all levels of society

There were enough seaside resorts within reach of the LNER, and if they weren't enough there were always services to Blackpool or other resorts in LMS, GWR and SR areas reached within half a day's travel from London, York or Newcastle-on-Tyne

There were enough seaside resorts within reach of the LNER, and if they weren't enough there were always services to Blackpool or other resorts in LMS, GWR and SR areas reached within half a day's travel from London, York or Newcastle-on-Tyne

Even if you didn't want a paddle in the sea, or build sand castles, there were always beaches that drew the sightseer. The Kyle of Lochalsh afforded a view across the water to Skye, to follow in the wake of Flora MacDonald's rowing boat

Even if you didn't want a paddle in the sea, or build sand castles, there were always beaches that drew the sightseer. The Kyle of Lochalsh afforded a view across the water to Skye, to follow in the wake of Flora MacDonald's rowing boat

Every schoolboy's icon - 4472 'Flying Scotsman' is seen in 1929 with a rake of carriages working an express service - now in national ownership through the National Railway Museum's intervention after she was put up for sale 1996

Every schoolboy's icon - 4472 'Flying Scotsman' is seen in 1929 with a rake of carriages working an express service - now in national ownership through the National Railway Museum's intervention after she was put up for sale 1996

Another icon, streamlined Class A4 ('Streak') No.5 'Capercaillie'. Several were initially named after birds, some were re-named.  This one in September, 1942 as 'Charles H Newton', and again in June, 1943 changed to 'Sir Charles Newton'

Another icon, streamlined Class A4 ('Streak') No.5 'Capercaillie'. Several were initially named after birds, some were re-named. This one in September, 1942 as 'Charles H Newton', and again in June, 1943 changed to 'Sir Charles Newton'

Class D49 was designed by Greslay for semi-fast services and rural lines, built at Darlington under the auspices of Edward Thompson, and showed definite NER features. First in the class to be built was No. 234 'Yorkshire'. See also D49/2 'Hunt' below

Class D49 was designed by Greslay for semi-fast services and rural lines, built at Darlington under the auspices of Edward Thompson, and showed definite NER features. First in the class to be built was No. 234 'Yorkshire'. See also D49/2 'Hunt' below

From Inception, through the Depression to threat of Invasion... The LNER was there to serve

The London & North Eastern Railway (LNER) came into being in the aftermath of 'The Great War'. There were conflicting interests before and during its existence, not least between its chief officers.

For reasons best known to the Board after it came into being, the interests of the former Great Northern Railway became paramount and its Chief Mechanical Engineer, (Herbert) Nigel Gresley was thrust forward as the Senior Engineer of the new entity, a 'godlike' status to all but the Chairman. Perhaps because its southern terminus was in London, or perhaps because it was the most influential of the railways on the eastern side of mainland Britain, the Great Northern Railway (GNR) took on the mantel of senior partner of the new company. There were those who felt otherwise.

The equivalent of Chief Mechanical Engineer of the North Eastern Railway, Sir Vincent Litchfield Raven was its Locomotive Superintendent. His first assistant - and son-in-law - was Edward Thompson. Both had military practical and administrative experience from World War One and had held senior ranks with the Royal Engineers at Woolwich on the south-eastern outskirts of London. Yet Raven was close to retirement and even,with a string of innovative electric and steam locomotive designs to his name, his engineering credentials unquestioned, his age told against him. Edward Thompson may have felt his qualifications stood him in good stead, but despite his military experience that Gresley lacked, Gresley had already held the top position in the GNR and 'moulded' Doncaster Plant. The NER's income came from heavy industry based between Teesside (Middlesbrough, Hartlepool), Sunderland, Newcastle and their respective shipbuilding, steel, mining and chemical industries that sourced materials from as far south as the Selby coalfield to the coalfield and northward around Ashington near the coast north of Newcastle in Northumberland. Ironstone for steel and shipbuilding was sourced from around Cleveland in North Yorkshire, lead, lime and other materials for chemical processing came from between the rural Dales and the coast north of Whitby.

Another man, around Gresley's age, was Walter Chalmers who had succeeded William Paton Reid as Chief Mechanical Engineer of the burgeoning North British Railway (NBR), may also have had his eyes on the position Gresley held. He had been an apprentice at Cowlairs Locomotive Works on the edge of Glasgow until when in 1904 he became Chief Draughtsman. This post he held for sixteen years when Reid retired and Chalmers was given the reins in 1920. No less in size and importance than either the GNR or NER, the NBR was the chief company north of the border, spanned Scotland from east to west and in the Western Highlands, adjoining the Caledonian and Highland Railways to north, north-west and south. The NBR's wealth came - as with the NER - from the Central Fife coalfield, other minerals, steel making and shipbuilding.

Around the LNER system... Young and old observed at work, on or heading for the shed

A 'Sandringham' class B17 with Gresley side corridora passenger stock at Cambridge, possibly arrived from London

A 'Sandringham' class B17 with Gresley side corridora passenger stock at Cambridge, possibly arrived from London

An East Anglia local passenger train leaves Cambridge with pre-Grouping stock

An East Anglia local passenger train leaves Cambridge with pre-Grouping stock

Ex-GNR Class N2 0-6-2 tank locomotive with condensing pipes passes with Gresley articulated suburban non-corridor stock. The pipes re-fed steam through the boiler and ensured no smoke was emitted in the tunnels between King's Cross and Moorgate

Ex-GNR Class N2 0-6-2 tank locomotive with condensing pipes passes with Gresley articulated suburban non-corridor stock. The pipes re-fed steam through the boiler and ensured no smoke was emitted in the tunnels between King's Cross and Moorgate

A further development of the D49 was Class D49/2 named after fox hunts in he LNER area. No. 247 'The Blankney' pf Hull Botanic Gardens shed is seen here by Falsgrave signal cabin, Scarborough

A further development of the D49 was Class D49/2 named after fox hunts in he LNER area. No. 247 'The Blankney' pf Hull Botanic Gardens shed is seen here by Falsgrave signal cabin, Scarborough

Class Z4 0-4-2 tank engine was bought in 1916 from Manning Wardle of Leeds. She's seen here at Kittybrewster shed on the former GNoSR system

Class Z4 0-4-2 tank engine was bought in 1916 from Manning Wardle of Leeds. She's seen here at Kittybrewster shed on the former GNoSR system

Many hands make... cleaning quicker. Class A1 No. 2597 in the 1930s at Top Shed, King's Cross locomotive depot. Originally GNR, this became the LNER's and then British Railways Eastern Region 'senior' locomotive depot

Many hands make... cleaning quicker. Class A1 No. 2597 in the 1930s at Top Shed, King's Cross locomotive depot. Originally GNR, this became the LNER's and then British Railways Eastern Region 'senior' locomotive depot

Lesser partners in the company were - in England:

The Great Central Railway (GCR), formerly the Manchester, Sheffield & Lincoln Railway before its southward extension via Nottingham, Leicester and Aylesbury to Marylebone Station in north-west London. Its works were at Gorton near Manchester; the Great Eastern Railway (GER) had its works at Stratford, close to the River Lea on the eastern side of London. the industries on the east side of London were its lifeblood, although it stretched into rural Essex and East Anglia where much of its income was seasonal. One source of regular income was Newmarket in Suffolk, the eastern centre of racehorse breeding and racing; the Midland & Great Northern Joint Railway (M&GNJR) stretched west-east across the country from the West Midlands to Sheringham in Norfolk. Its works were at Melton Constable in deepest Norfolk. Nicknamed the 'Muddle & Go Nowhere Railway, its operations were almost exclusively rural;.

In Scotland

There were only four railway companies north of the Border, the largest of which was the North British Railway. Aside from this company the Great North of Scotland Railway (GNoSR) joined the LNER group of companies by default, being based in the north-east of the country at and around Aberdeen. Founded in the early mid-19th Century, the GNoSR had expanded westward and north-westward to Inverness, its rivals being the Caledonian Railway (CR) and Highland Railway (HR) which were drawn into the London, Midland & Scottish camp. What industry there was arose from fishing and shipbuilding. The large fishing fleets based around the north-east of Scotland brought with it a host of service industries, and there was of course tourism. Balmoral was one of Queen Victoria's favourite haunts, and her appreciation for the region drew the tourists from as far away as London and abroad..

Joint, associated, absorbed and managed companies

Prior to Grouping in 1923 the NER had absorbed the Hull & Barnsley Railway (H&BR, formerly the Hull, Barnsley & West Riding Junction Railway, an ambitious title as it proved, considering it didn't reach as far as Barnsley and stopped short at Cudworth), a company that like the Stockton & Darlington Railway (S&DR) that had been a serious rival in the NER's early days. Its operating centre was in Hull, with several large dock complexes to its credit. However, as the NER reached Hull first it had the choicer routes and the H&BR was left with a series of level crossings around the edge of town before it reached the city and docks. Its only main locomotive shed in Hull was at Springhead, its locomotive fleet small at the time of absorption. Subsequently its allocation was a mix of ex-NER and LNER steam, ending in 1958 with a small allocation of War Department 2-8-0 locomotives for the coal traffic along with a number of K3 2-6-0 moved from Tyneside.

Joint companies were the Axholme Joint Railway east of Gainsborough in north-west Lincolnshire, the Great Western & Great Central Joint Railway in and around Buckinghamshire, and the Manchester South Junction & Alrincham Joint Railway.

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Aside from the H&BR, other absorbed or managed companies numbered the Colne Valley & Halstead Railway in north-east Essex, the East & West Yorkshire Union Railway, the mid-Suffolk Light Railway and the North Sunderland Railway on Wearside in County Durham.

Constituent founder member railway companies of the NER were the Leeds Northern Railway based in Leeds, the York, Newcastle & Berwick Railway and York & North Midland Railway both centred on York from the time of George Hudson.

Minor and associated companies numbered the Malton & Driffield Railway (east of York in the Yorkshire Wolds), the Aberford* Railway in Northumberland, the Newcastle & Carlisle Railway that had appealed to the NER for backing when the NBR began to encroach on its territory south of the Border, the Derwent Valley* Light Railway that ran north-south east of York and linked with the NER on the Scarborough line (Y&NMR) not far from the Rowntree chocolate factory at Huntington, and lastly the Easingwold* Light Railway that joined the ECML at Alne between York and Thirsk to run almost due east to the village of Easingwold for agricultural producers to send their goods to market in York for processing.

The companies' origins and regional requirements or output were divers, between the River Thames to the south and the north coast between Forres and Fraserburgh. The North Sea to the east all the way north provided food and trade. There were even more divers cultural differences, although the language was the same: business and pleasure. The geographical differences and obstacles were overcome with the help of able civil engineers.

* These were also connecting standard gauge railways that relied on the main railway to ease traffic and provide business.

Travellers and commuters

A joint, fanciful LNER, LMSR poster to advertise the attractions of Edinburgh to the well-heeled (few others could afford the hotel prices) showed the pleasant side of the city known to its inhabitants as 'Auld Reekie' - guess why

A joint, fanciful LNER, LMSR poster to advertise the attractions of Edinburgh to the well-heeled (few others could afford the hotel prices) showed the pleasant side of the city known to its inhabitants as 'Auld Reekie' - guess why

The romance of 1930s express services - heightened by the flamour of cocktail bars - fancy a Manhattan at 120 mph? 'Flying Scotsman service could offer dining and a cinema car... ticket anyone?

The romance of 1930s express services - heightened by the flamour of cocktail bars - fancy a Manhattan at 120 mph? 'Flying Scotsman service could offer dining and a cinema car... ticket anyone?

At York carriage works, where once David Bain's NER carriages were assembled, employees finish the varnishing stage on one of the teak pannelled Gresley non-corridor commuter carriages. Carriage building was undertaken at various LNER sites

At York carriage works, where once David Bain's NER carriages were assembled, employees finish the varnishing stage on one of the teak pannelled Gresley non-corridor commuter carriages. Carriage building was undertaken at various LNER sites

Sentinel and Clayton railcars were introduced in the early LNER years to reduce passenger running costs on branch lines - prone to breaking down, unable to pull much in the way of goods or milk vans, some were replaced by steam adapted for push-pull

Sentinel and Clayton railcars were introduced in the early LNER years to reduce passenger running costs on branch lines - prone to breaking down, unable to pull much in the way of goods or milk vans, some were replaced by steam adapted for push-pull

The Yorkshire coast - 1932 poster by Andrew Johnson. Accommodation could be found at farms, bed & breakfasts, hostels or hotels. Beach or hiking holiday? Try Robin Hood's Bay with camping coaches, wide vistas over moor and dales

The Yorkshire coast - 1932 poster by Andrew Johnson. Accommodation could be found at farms, bed & breakfasts, hostels or hotels. Beach or hiking holiday? Try Robin Hood's Bay with camping coaches, wide vistas over moor and dales

Class  V3 2-6-2 tank locomotive with empty stock for the carriage sidings on Tyneside. Expresses ran to Newcastle for 'The Norseman' ferry connection to Norway - note the sleeping car in the formation (4th back from the locomotive)

Class V3 2-6-2 tank locomotive with empty stock for the carriage sidings on Tyneside. Expresses ran to Newcastle for 'The Norseman' ferry connection to Norway - note the sleeping car in the formation (4th back from the locomotive)

Interior Gresley non-smoking corridor 1st compartment with panorama views and highly chromed mirror frames

Interior Gresley non-smoking corridor 1st compartment with panorama views and highly chromed mirror frames

This is one of the 3rd Class smoking compartments, again with views and mirrors. Many of these vehicles have been painstakingly restored by groups on the North Yorkshire Moors andSevern Valley railways

This is one of the 3rd Class smoking compartments, again with views and mirrors. Many of these vehicles have been painstakingly restored by groups on the North Yorkshire Moors andSevern Valley railways

The inaugural run of a Silver Jubilee set in King George V's Silver Jubilee year, 1935, seen on the ECML at Hatfield, Hertfordshire

The inaugural run of a Silver Jubilee set in King George V's Silver Jubilee year, 1935, seen on the ECML at Hatfield, Hertfordshire

At its inception the Company inherited a vast stable of locomotives, passenger and freight rolling stock.

Some dated back to Victoria's reign. Standardisation would take most of two decades and in some cases locomotives and stock inherited from smaller constituent companies were in turn inherited by British Railways in 1948. .

Of course many locomotives built by these companies before WWI were still in good working order, as was the stock. Signalling and communications equipment would be overhauled and updated naturally, although the East Coast Main Line from King's Cross to Edinburgh was already largely uniform in standard. Trunk routes elsewhere had also been updated, such as from Liverpool Street (London) to Norwich, Harwich and Great Yarmouth in the east, Marylebone to Manchester and Lincoln in the North and Midlands, York to Leeds and Manchester, York to Hull, Newcastle-upon-Tyne to Carlisle over the Waverley route and Edinburgh to Aberdeen in Scotland.

Almost from the outset Gresley had introduced new locomotives and passenger stock for the premier routes, although pre-WWI East Coast Joint Stock carriages would continue in use for some years to come (some have been preserved, such as at the National Railway Museum in York).

New Pacific-type locomotives of Class A1 (later to be re-boilered and re-classified A3) appeared, starting with No. 2500 'Windsor Lad' and a little later 'Flying Scotsman' appeared, to become the 'darling' of the public, at times to haul the train of the same name non-stop to Edinburgh Waverley Station. In the 1930s a new class of express locomotive made its appearance, such as No. 4500 'Garganey' (in March, 1939 she was re-named 'Sir Ronald Matthews' after the current Chairman). Nicknamed 'Streaks', these were 'teamed up' with corridor tenders from the outset for crews to relieve their colleagues at the halfway mark near Durham. In 1935 a number were built for the 'Silver Jubilee' service to mark the King George V's 25th anniversary. No. 2509 'Silver Link' appeared first, followed by No. 2510 'Quicksilver', 2511 'Silver King' and 2512 'Silver Fox'. These locomotives were partnered with trains of silver-grey streamlined carriages, and both locomotives and carriages were fitted with chrome-plated numbers and door furnishings. The 'Race to the North' was undertaken with zeal by both the LMS and LNER. One-upmanship had a new face.

Of course Gresley also produced designs for normal expresses and lighter locomotives, Class B17 'Sandringham' for East Anglian express services as well as the Harwich boat trains from London, and Manchester (the 'Hook Continental') as well as semi-fast workings. Shorter side corridor carriages were built for these and suburban or local services. Some carriages were designed as 'lavatory composites', three first class compartments at one end and four third class at the other, with toilets separating them and side corridors to link the compartments for access to the lavatories. One compartment at either end spanned the width of the vehicle. In all carriages mirrors and panorama views of destinations on the system - as had been introduced by the pre-Grouping companies - and well upholstered seats meant passengers could travel long distances in comfort.

Two strong, long wheel-based class of locomotive were introduced, Class P1 and P2 2-8-2, and allocated on the long Edinburgh- Aberdeen expresses. Given names from Sir Walter Scott's novels, they proved unsuitable for the route, however, with its sharp curves. More on them later. .

A new fleet of locomotives began to be built even before the LNER was officially 'launched'

Gresley's Class A1 2547 'Doncaster' takes the 'Flying Scotsman' train (10.00 from both Edinburgh and King's Cross simultaneously). Many of the class wee rebuilt in the 1930s to Class A3.

Gresley's Class A1 2547 'Doncaster' takes the 'Flying Scotsman' train (10.00 from both Edinburgh and King's Cross simultaneously). Many of the class wee rebuilt in the 1930s to Class A3.

 Class A4 4462 'Great Snipe' brings an express through New Southgate in the north London suburbs during the 1930s

Class A4 4462 'Great Snipe' brings an express through New Southgate in the north London suburbs during the 1930s

A4 No. 4482 'Golden Eagle' awaits the 'off' at King's Cross with the 'Flying Scotsman' service - top-hatted stationmaster in attendance

A4 No. 4482 'Golden Eagle' awaits the 'off' at King's Cross with the 'Flying Scotsman' service - top-hatted stationmaster in attendance

Class A4 4468 'Mallard' passes Barkston Junction on the ECML near Grantham in Lincolnshire with the York dynamometer carriage and one of the Silver jubilee sets on 3rd July 1938 to tackle her record-breaking run

Class A4 4468 'Mallard' passes Barkston Junction on the ECML near Grantham in Lincolnshire with the York dynamometer carriage and one of the Silver jubilee sets on 3rd July 1938 to tackle her record-breaking run

Gresley Class K4 2-6-0, 'The Great Marquess' is seen here with a steam tour in the 1960s after being bought for preservation by Viscount Garnock - they were designed for the West Highland line fish trains to Glasgow

Gresley Class K4 2-6-0, 'The Great Marquess' is seen here with a steam tour in the 1960s after being bought for preservation by Viscount Garnock - they were designed for the West Highland line fish trains to Glasgow

Gresley's experimental 4-6-4 'Hush-hush No. 1000 on the Forth Bridge in the mid-1930s

Gresley's experimental 4-6-4 'Hush-hush No. 1000 on the Forth Bridge in the mid-1930s

Newcastle-upon-Tyne, A1 2577 'Night Hawk' is seen from the Norman keep with a northbound express rattling over the (in)famous 'diamonds'

Newcastle-upon-Tyne, A1 2577 'Night Hawk' is seen from the Norman keep with a northbound express rattling over the (in)famous 'diamonds'

P2 2-8-2 2004 'Mons Meg' - named after a Sir Walter Scott character - at rest. The class would be rebuilt to A2/2 when Edward Thompson took up the reins

P2 2-8-2 2004 'Mons Meg' - named after a Sir Walter Scott character - at rest. The class would be rebuilt to A2/2 when Edward Thompson took up the reins

Shorter distance passenger services had not been ignored in the years before WWII.

A number of tank and tender locomotives was introduced on semi-fast, local and suburban services, and some pre-Grouping designs rebuilt or re-configured. One rebuild/reconfigured locomotive was Vincent Raven's Class H1 4-4-4 tank locomotive designed for Harrogate to Leeds or York trains, rebuilt to 4-6-2 Pacific specification and re-classified A8. These would augment the NER's Pacific tank stable, Classes A6 and A7. Class A6 itself was a rebuild of the 'Whitby Willie' 4-6-0 built for coastal passenger working between Middlesbrough-Whitby-Scarborough or Whitby-Malton. Class A7 had been built by the NER to work coal traffic in tightly laid-out mine exchange sidings where Class Q6 was unable to cope. Gresley Class V1 2-6-2 tank locomotives were introduced in the early 1930s to passenger traffic and was used on empty stock working to Heaton carriage sidings on Tyneside. Some Class V1 locomotives were fitted with higher pressure boilers and re-classified V3.

At around the same time tender locomotive Class D49 4-4-0 'Shires' were introduced on services in Yorkshire, the North East and eastern Scotland. The first, No. 234 'Yorkshire' was allocated to the Hull area. Some were rebuilt with Lentz rotary cam arrangement and named after fox hunting establishments, the first being No. 352 'Leicestershire' in June, 1932, re-classified D49/2 and renamed 'The Meynell'. The first of the class built as D49/2 was No. 201 'The Bramham Moor'. Class B17 4-6-0 were named after stately homes in the East Midlands and East Anglia. They were allocated to East Anglia and cross-country services from Manchester Victoria on the former GCR to Harwich on the 'Hook Continental' boat trains to connect with ferries across the North Sea to the Hook of Holland as well as Liverpool Street (London) to Harwich on account of their lower axle weight due to restrictions on East Anglian lines. A number were re-boilered in 1938. No. 2830 'Thoresby Park' .was renamed 'Tottenham Hotspur' and a number of others were likewise re-classified. Others again were renamed after East Anglian army regiments. Further B17s were re-named with royal themes to take the royal family to Kings Lynn in Norfolk for Sandringham House. One locomotive, No. 2870 was first named 'Manchester City', then for some reason in May 1937 re-named 'Tottenham Hotspur' and in September that year re-named again to 'City of London' for the Sandringham royal train.